Chicago Bears: For Better Or Worse, The Jay Cutler Era Is Over

The end of marriage between the Chicago Bears and quarterback Jay Cutler is inevitable, signaling the start of a new era.

Even though Jay Cutler will only be 34 years old at the start of the 2017 season and though the Chicago Bears have no clear candidate to take over at quarterback it came as no surprise to fans when ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported that the Bears have put him on the trade block. The writing has been on the wall for Cutler in Chicago since general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox arrived in Chicago.

They attempted to trade Cutler at that time, but at age 32 with $31.5 million of guaranteed money in 2015 and 2016, no team was willing to pay the price, in money or talent. At that point Pace and Fox bit the bullet and declared that Cutler was their first choice at quarterback all along.

For one season, it appeared that the shotgun wedding between the two sides had a chance to work. In 2015, Cutler put together one of the best seasons of his career under offensive coordinator Adam Gase. He completed 64.4 percent of his pass attempts for 3,659 yards, 21 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions for a passer rating of 92.3.

Cutler also led the NFL that season with four, fourth quarter comebacks but could only lead the Bears to six victories. The positive for that season was that six of the 10 losses were by six points or less which had fans looking for better days in 2016. Those hopes crashed on takeoff when the Bears opened the season 1-6 on their way to a 3-13 record.

It didn’t take a crystal ball to know that Cutler was on his final lap as starting quarterback when the Bears dropped their first two games of the 2016 season and lost Cutler to a sprained thumb. Veteran backup Brian Hoyer stepped in and, while his efforts as the starter didn’t lead to many points on the scoreboard, his passing numbers scored with Fox. Hoyer started five games in 2016, playing even when Cutler had healed.

If it weren’t for Hoyer breaking his left arm in a Thursday night game against the Green Bay Packers, Cutler may not have played again in 2016. The torn right labrum he suffered in Week 11 against the New York Giants guaranteed his career in Chicago was finished. And what has that eight year career added up to? Jay Cutler is without a doubt the most loved/hated quarterback in Chicago Bears history.

On one hand, his terminal case of looking apathetic has always left an impression around the NFL that, whether the Bears win or lose, he just doesn’t care. As far as interceptions, he throws too many. Some eagerly call him a wimp. He’s only led the Bears to the playoffs once, and has only one postseason victory.

Contrarily, Cutler also has a rifle arm and can squeeze the ball through windows that most quarterbacks couldn’t begin to open. He broke franchise passing records that existed since Sid Luckman retired in 1950: completions, yards, touchdowns.

Through 2015, Cutler started 103 of the Bears’ 112 games. Despite opinion still held by many, he didn’t tap out of the Bears’ 2011 NFC Championship Game against the Packers. Cutler suffered a Grade II MCL tear, an injury that normally keeps a quarterback out of action for at least four weeks. Actually, Cutler tried to play through it, taking the field for two series in the second half before being pulled from the game.

So what are the chances that at least one other team sees the positive side of having Cutler at quarterback in 2017? Actually, they’re very good. What are the chances that the Bears get any return from another team? Those chances are practically non-existent.

Through the 2020 season, Cutler has a $2.5 million roster bonus each year, but no more guaranteed money on his contract. Getting something in return for a 34-year-old quarterback is difficult enough. If Pace can get anything in return from a team that Cutler is willing to play for, he should be named the 2017 NFL Executive of the Year the minute the deal closes.

It’s more likely that Cutler’s career with the Bears will come to a close with a statement that he’s been released, unless he decides to retire, which has been widely speculated both in the press and social media. Either way, Jay Cutler’s eight year career in Chicago may not led to the postseason success that was hoped for, but it was never boring.

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